A man of understanding will put his trust in the law,
The law is faithful to him as when one asks at the oracle.
One of his fundamental teachings is formulated in the proverb:
Fear the Lord and glorify his priests,
And give him his portion even as it is commanded.
Elsewhere he declares:
The leisure of the scribe increases his wisdom,
And he who has no business becomes wise.
In his famous description of the typical wise man in 39:1-11 may be recognized many of the traits of the later scribes. As the law and the ritual gained greater prominence in the life of Judaism, it was inevitable that it should command the attention of the practical teachers of the people. Thus gradually the wise devoted themselves to its study and interpretation, ever emphasizing, however, thought and conduct as well as conformity to the ritual. Scribism was greatly enriched by its lineal inheritance through the earlier wise, and long retained the proverbial, epigrammatic form of teaching and that personal attitude toward the individual and his problems which was one of their greatest sources of strength. The honor which the early scribes enjoyed was well deserved. Their methods were free from the casuistry that characterized many of the later scribes. They not only copied and guarded the law, but were its interpreters, applying it practically to the every-day problems of the people as well as to their duties in connection with the temple service. Their influence upon the Jews in this early period was on the whole exceedingly wholesome, and from their ranks rose the martyrs that a generation later were ready to die for the law.
VI. The Teachings of Ben Sira. Ben Sira was acquainted with Greek culture and shows at several points familiarity with Greek ideals and methods of thinking, but his point of view in general was distinctly Jewish. He gathered together all that was best in the earlier teachings of his race. In many ways he represents an advance beyond all that had gone before and a close approximation to the spirit and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The God of his faith was omnipotent, majestic, omniscient, just, and merciful. He was the God of all mankind, although it was through Israel that he especially revealed himself. Ben Sira did not, like Ezekiel, think of God as far removed from the life of men and as communicating with them only through angels, but as directly and personally interested in the experiences and life of the individual. In 23:1, 4 he addresses him as Lord, Father, and Master of my life. Thus he employs in the personal sense the term Father, which was most often on the lips of the Great Teacher of Nazareth. In Ben Sira’s stalwart faith and simple trust there is also much that reminds us of the Greater than Solomon. Like the teachers who had preceded him, he had, however, no clear belief in individual immortality (cf. 41:3-4, 38:16, 23) The only reward after death that he could hold up before a good man was his reputation: